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When I was growing up, I always envisioned my dad as this indestructible superhero. When he fell sick with liver cancer, I saw his superhero mask start to come off — and I noticed that the only thing that helped ease his pain was medical marijuana. I watched medical cannabis change his quality of life as his illness progressed, and it was then that I knew I wanted to help patients like him realize the incredible healing potential of the cannabis plant. That’s when I discovered the opportunity to turn my passion into a legitimate business.
Based on my experiences, I’d like to share my tips on turning something you’re passionate about — be it a specific cause or general interest — into a business.
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Identify a problem you’re passionate about.
When my dad was ill, the only thing that helped ease his pain was medical marijuana. But there was one glaring problem — the process of getting a medical marijuana (MMJ) card was incredibly confusing. I could see that the sheer complexities of the process, paired with lack of education on the topic and residual social stigmas, were preventing people from applying. This lack of easy access to medical cannabis was a problem I became passionate about, and at the time, it was a problem that lacked a solution.
Other entrepreneurs searching for a problem they are passionate about should consider the hardships and personal struggles plaguing their own lives. Are there challenges or patterns in your own life that need fixing? It may help (and could be extremely cathartic) to make a list of daily struggles you wish you could solve. Get creative: Make a bubble chart or a mind map and watch the ideas flow.
Next, ask yourself if solutions to the problems you’ve identified already exist. If so, you must figure out how yours is different and whether it is more effective. Most importantly, ask yourself how and why others will benefit from your unique solution. For me, the answer to that question guided my business.
Establish a team that encourages you to be your best.
It is crucial to surround yourself with a strong support team that shares your core mission. My friend, business partner and now co-CEO Joshua Green genuinely believed in our shared vision, and we quit our jobs to bootstrap our cannatech platform from the ground up. Back then, we didn’t know we’d be creating what is now one of the largest medical marijuana card application platforms — we took a leap of faith together. Four successful years later, we continue to encourage each other to take risks, work hard and become the best version of ourselves.
When building a team, I always encourage other entrepreneurs to consider the weaknesses of their current team and hire people who can fill those gaps. Think about the things you are not good at and find team members with those qualities to ensure well-rounded leadership. It can be tempting to hire people who work in similar ways to you, but it’s also crucial to avoid “mini-me’s” or groupthink and to look for unique team members who specialize in skills you or your company are lacking, so they can add new value.
When searching for members to round out your team, be sure to lean on the network around you. The best recommendations are through word of mouth, but there are a host of additional networking resources at your fingertips, like LinkedIn, Clubhouse or Twitter. Put the word out within your network, and be extremely clear about the skill sets you’re seeking. When hiring for a specific role, don’t be afraid to contact other individuals working in similar positions at competing companies. If you want top talent, you’ll need to actively chase it.
It can help to write things out — create a list of deal-breakers and must-have qualities for potential employees. Be transparent about the role and company culture with them during the interview process to ensure their personality type and passions align with those of your team. The personality of your company matters and is often a make-or-break factor in retaining employees long-term.
Most importantly, you have to be comfortable with giving up some control. Be open and receptive to new points of view and working styles — you won’t always know best.
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Set a clear goal.
Set a clear goal, and don’t lose focus on that initial goal, even when success comes in and your hard work starts to pay off. In our case, the cannabis industry was growing rapidly, and we needed a simple business plan to keep us focused and on track. That’s why we made our goal as straightforward as possible — make applying for a medical marijuana card easy and bolster long-term patient care by providing educational resources.
Goal setting can be overwhelming. First, identify one main, overarching goal that articulates what you want to achieve with your company or business idea, and draw up a chart or list of the steps required to get there. Make the goal quantifiable and identify and communicate the metrics of success to your team so that you can hold yourselves accountable and measure progress honestly. Be sure to build all aspects of your company, including your team and their KPIs, around this one overarching mission and main goal. This way, your team can retain integrity and passion for a shared common goal without losing sight of it when the company grows.
On the other hand, don’t fall into the trap of immovable and unchanging goals. Businesses grow and markets shift and change. Be ready to revisit your goal chart often to make adjustments. Doing the same thing forever is moving backward, and in today’s volatile business landscape, being able to adapt to suit-shifting consumer demands and unpredictable regulations is key to survival.
In the second installment of this series, I’ll cover the importance of persistence and turning struggles into strategy.
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